Doremus Avenue Reconstruction and Bridge
In 1994 the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT)
selected Parsons Brinckerhoff for the design of the replacement
of the Doremus Avenue Bridge over Conrail's Oak Island Railroad
Yard in Essex County, New Jersey. The bridge spans over thirty-three
(33) active rail tracks. This rail yard is one of the busiest
yards east of the Mississippi River. Doremus Avenue provides
the primary north-south access along the City of Newark's waterfront
industrial area east of the NJ Turnpike and also serves as a
primary access to and from the shipping terminals located in
Port Newark and Port Elizabeth. These ports are major facilities
located within New York-New Jersey harbors.
The existing bridge, originally built in 1918, was functionally
obsolete and structurally deficient. It has two lanes and an
AADT of over 8,500 vehicles, with over 40% of the total traffic
consisting of heavy trucks. The north abutment was reinforced
in 1919 with the construction of an additional section of footing
on piles placed in front of the just-built full height wall
to contain lateral movement due to substantial settlement. Differential
settlement had also occurred throughout the entire length of
the bridge. Most of the settlement appears to have occurred
just after the completion of the original bridge. This settlement
is attributed to an undetected soft compressible layer of clay
and organic peat beneath an upper layer of sand and silt, into
which the original timber piles were driven. The entire superstructure
was raised in 1929 to provide additional vertical track clearance.
The current structure's profile is like riding on a roller coaster.
An interesting historical side note to this bridge is that
the eighteen (18) independent simple span through-girders structures
[which vary in length and size] were transplanted from other
railroad structure sites throughout the Northeast corridor area
by two railroad companies, the Pennsylvania Railroad and the
Lehigh Valley Railroad, each of which were responsible for half
of the bridge's construction.
The new bridge will be 401m (1,315') in length and the overall
project improvement limit is 1,755 m (5,758') in length. The
superstructure consists of three 3-span continuous welded plate
girder units. The curb-to-curb width of the roadway and bridge
will be 19.2m (63'), consisting of two 3.6m (12') lanes and
a 2.4m (8') shoulder in each direction. The roadway width will
increase to 22.8m (75'). The bridge cross-section includes a
2.1m (7') extension beyond the bridge parapet of the west fascia
to carry a 610mm (24") diameter water main and a 254mm
(10") diameter sanitary sewer force main across the bridge.
The proposed south approach roadway grade rises from the relatively
flat 0.610 percent to 3.90 percent, and then flattens slightly
to 3.682 percent to the crest of the bridge. The north approach
roadway grade falls from the crest of the bridge at 4.244 percent
and flattens slightly to 4.045 percent before reaching the base
of the bridge at 0.615 percent.
During the Final Scope Development and preliminary design phases
of the project, NJDOT design practice specified the use of working
stress design (WSD). With the introduction of AASHTO's Load
and Resistance Factor Design (LRFD) specifications, the Department
decided to evaluate the merits of this new design methodology
through the redesign of the Doremus Avenue Bridge Replacement
project. This was the first time that the LFRD specification
was used in New Jersey.
Some interesting facts learned from the design and during construction
- NJDOT used this project as a pilot program to establish
the state's LRFD criteria for use on the Doremus Avenue Bridge
replacement and for all future bridge designs within the state.
- Anticipated settlement on the south approach embankment
(> 3') was addressed with a substantial wick drain program
combined with a 16-month surcharge period and the use of Lightweight
Cellular Concrete Fill material (a First in the state).
- The pier foundations are 6-shaft, 1220mm (48") diameter
drilled caissons approximately 27m (90') in length and socketed
3m (10') into the rock layer.
- In collaboration with Rutgers University, one of the 3-span
continuous units and its associated substructure units will
be fully instrumented to monitor actual stress levels, both
during and after completion of the structure, for three years.
In addition, a Weigh-In-Motion system will be permanently
installed in the south approach roadway to accurately gather
vehicle loading information. The information collected will
be used to compare the actual stress levels in the structure
against the original LRFD anticipated levels. If conclusive
evidence is found that actual stress levels are significantly
different from those anticipated, the current LRFD specification
may be modified to reflect more accurate structural element
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